by Alma Bean
Feature Image: Photo by Rick Bowmer of AP Photo.
NYC to SLC
New York has been looking for a consistent spark after signing free agent Jalen Brunson (25/8/3). He is second on the team in scoring (20 ppg) and first in assists (6.9) which are both career highs for Brunson. With his recent production, Utah limited Brunson’s shot selections by only allowing four shot attempts. Brunson made 50 percent of those shots. Brunson accounted for 16.7 percent of New York’s shot attempts (9/24). Utah managed to only create space on the scoreboard through free throws. New York made two (2/2) and Utah made four (4/6) during the first quarter. Utah’s scoring was led by Kelly Olynyk (27/11/2), who currently is averaging career highs in field goal (54.5 percent) and three-point percentage (49 percent), with six points. Neither team able to create large enough runs to break away, and they finished the quarter with a 27-23 lead for Utah.
Utah’s second quarter gravitated towards the free throw line (10/12), yet New York was able to fire at will. Shooting 3/6 (50 percent) from three and 15/26 (57.7 percent) from the field, New York pulled off a 38-point quarter. Though he had a rather impressive night on the boards, Jarred Vanderbilt (2/9/1) scored his only bucket during the second quarter. With a pretty back-and-forth quarter, Brunson gave Utah something to talk about in the locker room as he hit a buzzer beating three to give New York the lead 61-58.
Bright Lights from New York
With Rudy Gay out with a left-hand sprain, Simone Fontecchio (9/4/2) was called to take his minutes and delivered. Shooting 3/5 (60 percent) from beyond the perimeter this game, Fontecchio has made improvements to his jumping since entering the league. Another player that has been making improvements since entering the league is Walker Kessler (8/7/1). Currently first in blocks amongst rookies (1.6) and tenth in the league, Kessler has already made a defensive impact for Utah. With the departure of Rudy Gobert, Kessler has kept the defensive pressure alive in Utah. After the shootout ending the first half, Utah managed to regroup and shot 4/7 within the perimeter (4/7) and retake the lead 85-83 to end the third quarter.
For the second half Utah brought their offensive focus to the perimeter but did not benefit them. Shooting 8/26 (30.8 percent) from the perimeter and 9/17 (52.9 percent) within the arc, Utah veered from their game plan of driving to the basket. The only change for New York is how frequently they would draw a foul in the second half. With the surprise contribution from Jericho Sims (11/13/2) off the bench, Utah struggled to stay in the game. the 18-6 run that New York produced at the start of the fourth proved to be too much for Utah as they fall 118-111. This is Utah’s first loss at home this season and continuing a three-game losing streak.
Utah will get a two-day break before facing the hot Phoenix Suns (9-5) on Friday night. This game will be broadcast on AT&T SportsNet.